AT Games Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Flashback HD | Nostalgia Nerd

A few videos back, I had a look at the Fei
Hao HDMI Mega Drive clone, and during that review I mentioned the AT Games Mega Drive,
and how I’d heard the controllers weren’t as responsive as perhaps they should be. The thing is, I’d never used the AT Games
Mega Drive Flashback. I was relying on what I’d heard on the grapevine,
and given the grapevine isn’t always entirely accurate, I thought I’d take a look myself. So here it is. The AT Games Mega Drive Flashback HD. The question is, does this box contain a world
of wonder… or a world of pain? In terms of style, the packaging is very similiar
to this previous AT Games contraption; The Reactor Wireless gaming console – an earlier
attempt at pushing out a Sega licenced incarnation. It looks a lot like a Wii, even down to a
pair of dubious motion controllers, but in a far cheaper and shoddy package. The whole console is based around a Firecore
Titan ARM CPU – or as far as I can tell, there have been many different models – enabling
it to both emulate Sega Mega Drive games and run these additional “motion sensitive” titles. Clearly this version can’t accept Mega Drive
cartridges – you just get what’s built in – AT Games also released Classic Genesis & Mega
Drive models that could load most cartidges but the original Firecore released in 2009
could load most cartridges, excluding titles like Virtua Racing and Everdrive carts, which
just don’t mesh with the emulation. This version also appears to have been a Genesis
on a Chip implementation, but regardless, this time we’re back to emulation. This new HD console can take cartridges, whilst
also sporting an impressive 85 titles, wireless pads and naturally, HDMI. AT Games have also now licenced the Mega Drive’s
appearance, so this console looks decidedly more Mega Drive Genesisy than their previous
offerings. Inside the box for which I paid a princely
£79.99, we have an instruction sheet, the console, 2 wireless pads, an HDMI cable and
a power supply. This thing isn’t tiny like the SNES mini by
the way. Side by side you can see that it’s still a
reasonably bulky unit, although still smaller than an original Mega Drive. The controllers are very, very similar to
the ones bundled with my Fei Hao Mega Drive, and feel just as shoddy. If you’re looking for points out of the box,
the SNES Mini is in a completely different league to this. If you hold a SNES mini it feels solid, dependable
and tactile. This feels like a slab of cheap plastic, chucked
together with some bargain basement pads; exactly what it is. OK, let’s plug it in. Pretty simple, one plug for the HDMI and one
for power. Wait a minute, why is that power light on? Hmmm, apparently the HDMI lead provides enough
power to make the LED glow.. WHEN IT’S TURNED OFF… interesting design
choice. Of course, this machine has it’s own power
supply, unlike the SNES Mini with it’s fangled USB power straight from your TV. Now I actually like getting a good old fashioned
power supply, and I’d have appreciated it if Nintendo had provided a usb wall adaptor. I’m going to plug a standard Mega Drive pad
in to begin with – I think it’s a nice touch you can do that. So after switching on and getting a brighter
LED glow, we are presented with a brief AT Games logo… which by the way, seems to be
every bloody where, and then we’re straight into a reasonable looking interface. Now, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve heard people
complain about this interface, and I must admit the navigation is a little clunky to
begin with. You have to press B to choose from the menu
on the left, then select games using the D-Pad, but it’s not going to ruin the show. It took me about 3 minutes to get used to
it, and then it works fine. It’s a little strange how they’ve grouped
Mortal Kombat Games together and then Sega Games. I would have preferred genres, and even a
split by console type, given we’ve also got Master System and Game Gear games here, but
that’s just being picky. OK, let’s give Sonic 2 a whirl and check out
those response times. On the left, we’ve got Sonic 2 running on
an original Mega Drive and on the right we have the Flashback, and yes, there is a very
slight delay – in Sonic 2 at least – between pressing a button and an action occurring,
but really, I wouldn’t have noticed had I not investigated it so carefully. Using the wireless pad, the delay seems no
different to a plugged in controller. The average gamer isn’t really going to care. Given this is emulation, this delay could
be worse on some titles, and better on others, but I’ve played most of the games on here
and for my needs, it was fine. If we stick with Sonic for a bit, I’ll explain
a few of the features. By pressing either the “reset” button or the
menu button on the wireless pads we get a menu! From here we can do numerous things including
turning on scanlines. Which incidentally, looks quite nice, but
given Youtube compression makes it look terrible, I’ll turn it back off. You can also rewind up to 6 seconds of the
game at any time by pressing the REWIND button on the pads. This allows you to avoid obstacles you didn’t
avoid or just watch someone being killed in Mortal Kombat over and
over again. Nice! You also get 10 save game slots per game. These are a doddle to use and if you exit
a game you’ll automatically be asked if you want to load your save game on the next session. This also works for cartridges you load in. The game data is held in memory until you
next load it up. The selection of games on offer is a bit of
a curious one. We’re seemingly limited to strictly Sega releases
or Mortal Kombat, and that’s not bad. We’ve got titles such as Sonic, Sonic Spinball,
Alien Storm, Bonanza Bros, Super Thunder Blade and even some RPG’s such as Sword of Vermillion. Along with those there are some Master System
classics like Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Fantasy Zone. You even get the built in game Snail Maze
from the Mk1 Master System… a nice touch, either that or scraping the barrel, I can’t
tell, or even care. Firing up one of the Game Gear titles gives
us a nice Game Gear frame and actually turning scanlines on here does help create a Game
Gear like experience – just without the horrific motion blur. We also get region exclusive titles such as
Golden Axe 3 and Virtua Fighter 2, of which the latter is pretty… terrible. BUT, never mind, because Mortal Kombat 1 through
3, more than makes up for that. Plus we actually get to use the full 6 button
pad for once. Once you’re bored of all these titles, you
can of course use your own cartridges. For this you need to switch off the console,
insert your game of choice, turn it back on – whereby the game is loaded entirely into
memory – You then simply click on the game icon under the cartridge section and you’re
good to go. Of course this doesn’t work with cartridges
which contain additional hardware such as Virtua Racing, or even with the Micro Machines
2 Turbo Tournament J-Cart. Nor does it work with the Game Genie or Action
Replay. Nor does it work for the Super Magic Drive,
and that’s simply because the emulator can’t rip a ROM from this kind of device, as they
don’t contain a conventional ROM. For example, the Super Magic Drives simply
acts as a middle man for the ROM, which is contained on disk… video upcoming on this
by the way. So instead of this nice menu, followed by
say, Universal Solider loading from disk. The Flashback just completely ignores whatever
is plugged in and boots normally. Suffice to say, the Mega CD of course won’t
work, neither will the 32X and nor will the Sega Menacer. But of course, if you have ANY of these devices,
you’re also gonna be the kind of man or woman who has the original hardware. So let’s get back to the core of this machine. The games. Now, a cartridge your typical gamer might
own, is a multi-game cart. Here’s that one I got with the Fei Hao Mega
Drive, usually it contains 18 games accessible from a menu. Now interestingly, the Flashback doesn’t load
it as a single cartridge. It loads it as multiple cartridges, of which
you can choose… although it only finds 8 of them. Even Sega’s own compilations behave weirdly. Mega Games 6 Volume 3 loads so we have itself
and Revenge of Shinobi Roms visible, but apart from loading the main menu, none of the titles
will actually run. An Everdrive cartridge won’t work at all,
just like with previous AT Games hardware. Out of curiosity I tried a single game reproduction
cartridge. The faithful Dr. Robotniks Creature Capture,
and that worked just fine. It would be nice if these cartridges actually
loaded onto the console though and you could just go back to them at any time. But no, you only get the game you’ve just
inserted. If you want to load in some Master System
games, you won’t be able to use the original Master System converter, mainly because the
cables on the back prevent it from sitting flushly. I would expect it to work with the Master
System Converter II as it’s simply a pass through connection, however I’ve heard it
doesn’t work with newer converters such as the Retro Freak Gear Converter. So I’ll have to leave that as a bit of a grey
area. OK, so, as with the Fei Hao machine, I want
to test Streets of Rage 2, to see how this thing handles sound. Never fails me in these situations. -actually, why the flip isn’t the Streets
of Rage series included on this console? That seems like a huge hole-
ANY-WAY….after loading it in, here’s the Flashback against original hardware. The sound on the Flashback is pretty sharp
at parts, that treble feels a bit rattly & piercing, but it’s not entirely bad, and we do have
actual stereo sound as opposed to the mono output of the Fei Hao machine. The biggest gripe I have is the stuttering
throughout, and it doesn’t just happen in the title music. You get it throughout the game, although it’s
less noticeable when you’re knee deep in cyber punks. This actually tallies with frame drop complaints
which have been reported elsewhere. The Flashback doesn’t always seem to be able
to keep up with the Mega Drive emulation in a seamless fashion. Most people won’t notice this as it’s programmed
to simply skip frames rather than actually slow down, but it may upset the hardcore enthusiast. But suffice to say, we’re only talking the
odd couple of frames here, you’re not going to find yourself appearing somewhere entirely
different on screen. Let’s move onto graphics. Now this thing outputs at 720p, just like
the SNES-Mini, but how does it compare to the original hardware using it’s RGB output? Well, let’s use Aladdin for this, mainly because
it has nice jagged edges & plain backgrounds which help to show up any artifacts, and
as you can see, side by side, it’s actually pretty good. Here we have the Mega Drive’s RGB output upscaled
to 720p and there’s very little difference between that and the Flashback. What’s important is the pixel FIDELITY and
the Flashback is actually a bit crisper here, putting out an image you’d expect to see from
a typical emulator on your PC. This seems an appropriate time to also point
out that the Flashback is of course, region free. So no issues like I faced with the Fei Hao
clone…. well apart from Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker, which again, refuses to load. So you may find the odd game which remains
stubborn and defiant. So there we go, it’s not overly bad. In fact, my main gripe is the built quality
of this thing, and the fact that it doesn’t feel like a quality product, and although
that might sound like a silly thing to be concerned about, it actually puts me off playing
this thing. If you take the SNES Mini, then booting it
up each time is a pleasurable experience, from start to finish. It’s something you want to remember, perhaps
tell the grandkids. Whereas turning on the Flashback is like a
drunken horror story where you urinated on a passing dog or something you just want to
forget. Alright, maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but
here’s another example; Remember those 85 games mentioned on the box. Well, they’re not all Mega Drive Games, nor
Master System or Game Gear games. In fact, 19 of them are just random shovelware
games which came from god knows where. They’re like Flash Games… maybe that’s the
real reason this is called the FLASH BACK. Hey? But seriously, it cheapens the experience. I’d rather they left them off and charged
us 5 quid less for the console, rather than shoehorning them under the guise of “BONUS
GAMES”, or spent it on a guy from to fix the interface controls. But hey, it doesn’t matter. Overall, it’s not as bad as I’d been led to
believe. You get more games than the SNES Mini, with
the option to load further, for the same price. On the downside the build quality is no where
near as good, but this is just the route Sega went down. Quantity of quality. It’s a shame for us Sega fans, but at least
we have an official product, in a sense. Personally, I’m happy with the original hardware,
or failing that emulation, but if you want a shiny box on your shelf then don’t be entirely
put off. Or just put a Raspberry Pi in a black box. Job done. Thanks for watching! 😀

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